THM MACROSHOTS N46
[Vibram x Slam Jam Post Sneakers]
We were always fascinated by the beauty of different textiles. When you see such a detailed picture of a structure of some amazing fabric, you can definitely understand the whole world of exploration and development behind its creation. And you are just mesmerized by the beauty of it.

So we started our THM MACROSHOTS editorial series, where we explore the complexity, depth, and beauty of different fabrics, textiles, materials, and hardware through the macro lens.


Today we are going to take a look at a collaborative project between true locomotives of the industry: Slam Jam and Vibram come together to expand their technological and design horizons, finding connections between fashion, design, and technology creating a "post sneaker''.

The resulting product is a hybrid shoe made in just 5 steps. Vibram brings their Vibram StratX rubber compound in a form of sheets, thermoforming it on a 3D last creating a one-piece one-step upper.

We explored this new development together with the Vibram Connection Lab design team - based in Milan - to bring you our new macro editorial.
THM MACROSHOTS N46
[Vibram x Slam Jam Post Sneakers]
We were always fascinated by the beauty of different textiles. When you see such a detailed picture of a structure of some amazing fabric, you can definitely understand the whole world of exploration and development behind its creation. And you are just mesmerized by the beauty of it.

So we started our THM MACROSHOTS editorial series, where we explore the complexity, depth, and beauty of different fabrics, textiles, materials, and hardware through the macro lens.
Today we are going to take a look at a collaborative project between true locomotives of the industry: Slam Jam and Vibram come together to expand their technological and design horizons, finding connections between fashion, design, and technology creating a "post sneaker''.

The resulting product is a hybrid shoe made in just 5 steps. Vibram brings their Vibram StratX rubber compound in a form of sheets, thermoforming it on a 3D last creating a one-piece one-step upper.

We explored this new development together with the Vibram Connection Lab design team - based in Milan - to bring you our new macro editorial.
[TH: Let's start with Vibram StratX: what is this material and its use case?]

VB: Technically it is an expanded rubber material - it is mainly rubber with a percentage of expanded material, in this case, a sort of EVA, and since it is not 100 percent rubber it is thermoformable. This material started being used in the orthopedic market, the sheets are used for insoles by our orthopedic clients.

Around 2 years ago we tried to warm up one of those sheets and put it over the last. We saw it was easy to use to recreate the shape that you would put underneath the material during the thermoforming process.

We decided to try using Rhinoceros 3D and put shapes directly on the last, 3d printing the sample last, and then transferring it to a CNC machine to create a production last.
The initial idea was that if we can wrap the sole, how can we wrap the upper using a Vibram material.

[So this is where the 5-step process comes in?]

We make and print a 3D last, we put it into a thermoforming machine with the sheets of StratX compound, close the upper, like in traditional shoe construction, you glue this construction with the midsole and you get a shoe.

[And what happens with the excess material around the cutout?]

We can recycle the rubber that is left in our Vibram Ecostep Recycled compound. We shred the rubber and create new blocks with all of it for future use.
[With this method of construction you limit the amount of material and time needed?]

By a lot, you only have one piece, no stitching, no need to use glued parts to create a 3D design and the geometry of the upper, no layering and all that.

Vibram StratX is printed as sheets, it can have different finishes and thicknesses while also being used "as is" to create a shoe. Slam Jam shoe is a technical showcase of this method for production, and now It is up to brands, designers, and creators to find exciting ways of what we can do with it.

[While we are still in this craze of single-piece injection molded sneakers, can you tell what is a benefit of Vibram StratX and thermoforming?]
Compared to the standard shoe-making production, Vibram streamlined the process thermoforming on a 3D last a Vibram StratX rubber sheet to realize a one step upper, that resemble standard footwear shapes. This innovative material is made with a highly durable Vibram rubber to be also water resistant and soft to the touch.

[I guess this way it is easier to prototype, iterate and create design studies with brands?]

It is much easier to use this method since the only changes you are doing are the 3D model and last's, thus in one week, you can go through 5-6 shapes. It takes about 15 hours to print a last that is like the one used in the post sneaker. And with this material, you can do more than just a shape. You can easily pair it with other materials, like a jersey or 3D mesh, or with other expanded materials to have more padding or ruggedness.
[It is an evolution of wet shaping leather on the last basically.]

Yes! And one of the interesting benefits of this method is that you don't have to ship a lot of stuff during the prototyping process and for production, since the sheets are made in our Italian and Chinese factories, and the last itself can be emailed as a file to the factory to create it for production. It is also quick and efficient in many ways.

The idea at the start was to try to replace the traditional construction of a rain boot actually. They are made with thermoplastic and need an injection molding machine.

In our case, we can use our own proven and tested outsoles.
The thermoforming method allows us to create even quite high shoes, we just have to have a wide enough surface area and depth of the vacuum chamber under the material and a thicker sheet of Vibram StratX.

[What was SlamJam's part in the collaboration?]

The collaboration between Vibram and Slam Jam gave us the chance to present this new Vibram technology applying it to their (un)corporate uniform project. Slam Jam gave us an occasion to explore and present innovative concepts, talk about the positioning side of this shoe since it is not really a boot nor a sneaker - it goes beyond that. This new Vibram technology was applied to a "sneaker" as an idea, thus a 'Post Sneaker' concept was born in dialogue with the Slam Jam team.
With the Post Sneaker and a new use for the Vibram StratX rubber sheets, Vibram expands its stellar roster of technical offerings for designers and creatives around the globe, bringing a new thoughtful and resourceful way for exploring the creative process without any limitations or shortcomings in the functional department.

If we peaked your curiosity, check out our extensive catalogue of materials on VIBRAM via the links below.


Produced by TECHUNTER Media.
Q: Ivan Dzhatiev [TECHUNTER, creative director], Alex Zabelin [TECHUNTER, Chief Editor].
A: Vibram Connection Lab design team.
Ph, edit: Ivan Dzhatiev [THM].
Producer, layout, edit: Alex Zabelin [THM].